Naked Lobster Goes Public

Sage Cohen and TheoBy Sage Cohen
Lobsters molt. When they’re in between big and small, they shed their hard shell and crawl along the bottom of the ocean all gelatinous and vulnerable. Once they’ve arrived at their next stage of development, they grow a new shell. While writing my book Writing the Life Poetic and growing my baby, I was a naked lobster-and a large one, at that.
Accustomed to being the quiet, inconspicuous person in the background observing things and writing them down, I was unprepared for the ways in which my new girth would belly me into the spotlight. As anyone who’s ever birthed a baby knows, pregnant women become public property. Strangers approach and without asking touch your stomach, make wildly inappropriate comments about your size, declare projections about your due date, and offer the full spectrum of unsolicited and unwelcome parenting advice. I developed a few, friendly canned responses to deflect such advances by affirming how smart and insightful these folks were.  
In tandem with my physical conspicuousness, I was stretching to get used to the idea of increased visibility and exposure as an author. My book was about poetry, but the lessons were being brought to life through stories about my own personal journey. This presented a strange, new predicament of fearing that people would actually read the things I write. Of course, the fear wasn’t that my writing would be read-but rather that it (or I) would be judged unfavorably. I understood that in writing a book, I was opening myself up to the unpredictable tides of public opinion. Suddenly, my life was a giant, elastic waistband-both literally and figuratively!
To make matters worse, my muse had me by the throat and she wasn’t letting me go. I was overcome with book ideas at all hours of the day and night. This heightened state of receptivity was making it difficult to do anything well-except write my book. The biggest challenge was an unprecedented stretch of insomnia, which resulted in a great deal of confusion in my waking hours. I ran a stop sign that I didn’t see at an intersection and nearly collided with a police car-all the while wondering why they were running their stop sign! I came home from a meeting for a new business opportunity with four business cards when I had met with three people-and ended up ceremoniously sending thank you notes to all the wrong people.
Fortunately, my pregnancy was requiring an entirely different type of creative energy. Basically, the baby grew me and I was along for the ride. Of course, I did my part; I ate well, took my vitamins, hiked with my dogs every day, and read all of my requisite “how to be a pregnant,” “fetus development” and “how to give birth” books. These gave me the happy illusion of grasping the unfathomable enormity of conception, pregnancy and birth.
My birth due date was September 12. I delivered final content for my entire book to Writer’s Digest Books on September 5. I was exhausted and euphoric, jumbled up with hormones and teetering precariously on puffed-up feet as I waited for my son to make his appearance and deliver me to motherhood.
Next month, polishing the book; pushing out the baby.


Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry, forthcoming from Writer’s Digest Books, and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. Her poetry and essays appear in journals and anthologies including Cup of Comfort for Writers, Oregon Literary Review, Greater Good and VoiceCatcher. Sage holds an MA in creative writing from New York University and teaches the e-mail class Poetry for the People. In September 2008, her son Theo Luchs-Cohen initiated Sage into the life of the writer mama.

1 Response to “Naked Lobster Goes Public”

  1. 1 Jennifer Roland May 23, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    That “public property” thing has always driven me crazy. When I get pregnant, I want a shield or something that will keep strangers from touching my belly. They can talk at me all they want, but it is so rude and bizarre to just touch someone’s stomach.

    But, I love the metaphor of the naked lobster. Thanks for the important reminder that we will feel vulnerable as we make the journey from writer to author, and that we will get through it.

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